The First Canon Table, in the 'Royal Bible'
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
This manuscript and detached leaves in other libraries (Canterbury Cathedral, Bodleian at Oxford, Worcester Cathedral) are probably the remains of an ancient two-volume Bible which Thomas of Elmham described in his history of St Augustine's, Canterbury, about 1415. He spoke of its purple-stained leaves which gave off extremely beautiful reflections when held to the light. This manuscript has only parts of the gospels, but its large size and the quite high numbers inscribed in the lower margins at the end of its quires (or booklets of pages making up the manuscript) suggest that it originally belonged to an impressive, illuminated Bible on the order of those commissioned at Jarrow by Ceolfrid. The purple pages inscribed and decorated with gold and silver along with the style of its one surviving picture strongly suggest that it was inspired by an early Christian Bible from the Mediterranean area.
Usually placed at the beginning of the gospels, the canon tables form a series of indices of the passages in the gospels which are similar to one another. Canon table I (seen here) lists passages from all four gospels. Reading across the columns, one could find the gospel accounts of, for example, the Crucifixion. It uses a system of numbering short sections of the Bible text devised in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Decorated with lively imaginary animals and intricate patterns that are hallmarks of early 9th-century Anglo-Saxon art, the canon tables of the Royal Bible foretell the exquisite decoration of the following pages.